The Orange Walk Town Council and residents of Orange Walk Town are in very deep water. What we could be looking at is the temporary shutdown of the town’s functions, and this is why: Plus TV has received confirmation that the Orange Walk Town Council’s bank account has been frozen. When we got word of this issue, we immediately tried got in contact with the Mayor of Orange Walk Kevin Bernard, who so happened to be in Belmopan in hopes of addressing this same matter with the Ministry of Finance. The Mayor came to our studious, where he was more than willing to do an interview with us. The Mayor explains that the cause of this issue is traced back to the previous town council. He relates the course of events that lead to the Belize Bank blocking their account.
Mr. Kevin Bernard- Mayor of Orange Walk Town
“So, what had happened in the previous administration, they were granted an over limit of $110,000. So, whether or not they have that money in the account, they could have written checks up to that amount without them having that fund available in the account meaning though that they will have to pay it through their subventions their money towards the overdraft. When we got into office in March of 2012, that account was maxed out, I was expired in December of 2011. So, this Council never had access to the overdraft any at all, have not been using the overdraft, and so, at the limit where it was at 111,000, it was really, really gone, no? And so, we were left with a bill, basically and we seek the Ministry of Finance assistance to deal with this matter, because apart from that, I must mention that we encountered other bills; all those bills we’ve been paying. But we couldn’t deal with the overdraft. This is why the bank has now decided to block our accounts because their money; they are demanding their money.”
Mayor Kevin Bernard stressed that the previous mayor and the Government who gave them the grant should be held accountable.
Mayor Kevin Bernard
“If it is this council that had gone and applied for an overdraft and left the overdraft in the position it is, I would take blame for it. But it is not this Council and I am saying to the Prime Minister and to the Ministry of Finance, that they are the ones that granted the previous administration that money and I want to put on record here on Plus TV that just before election, the previous administration got over $650,000 in grant money from the Ministry of Finance. Those are monies that does not have to be paid back to the Government. Why then , the previous Mayor, the previous administration did not pay off the overdraft? An this is the reason why also I put blame on the former Mayor of Orange Walk, Philip de la Fuente, because he was to have dealt with that issue”.
Mayor Bernard explains the course of action he took on Thursday.
Mayor Kevin Bernard
“What we did today was hand deliver letters to the Financial Secretary. We tried to meet with him, but he was in a meeting. I immediately, this morning when we got the call from the bank, email a letter to the Ministry of Local Government who is our Head Ministry to the CEO, to the Director of local Government and to the Financial Secretary. We know that they have received the documents in hands since this morning, they are aware of the situation. Like I said earlier, that the information is being discussed with the Prime Minister. What we would want is a solution to this problem. We see where…huge millions of dollars are being promised to Belize City! All we are asking, deal with the one hundred and twelve thousand plus dollah overdraft, and pay of that facility. The Council will do its part to continue to maintain and provide the service for this municipality”.
The mayor explains the major impacts of this issue.
Mayor Kevin Bernard
‘We cannot…the Council cannot close down the town. We cannot close the operations and for us to be able to operate, we need to have access to our funds. So, if the bank does not release our funds, because if we do not get the support from the Ministry of Finance, then, we won’t be able to do anything. That means that the people’s garbage will be left there. That means that we cannot continue to fix streets; that means that we cannot continue to pay our employees. People will suffer. How will our employees then provide food for their family? What do we do about that? It’s a huge impact it will have on everybody…and this is the reason we are asking, we are pleading to the Ministry of Finance, to the Prime Minister to look at this issue as urgent as possible.”